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OtterBox iPhone 4/4S Defender Series with iON Intelligence - A Case That’s Smarter Than Your Smartphone

Case

iPhone 4/4S Defender Series with iON Intelligence, $129.95, OtterBox.com

The Good: OtterBox promises extended battery life with maximum protection for those of us who drop our phones all the time, and OtterBox delivers.

The Bad: There’s no wall charger included, the USB cable doesn’t match your regular iPhone charger cable, and it takes a while for the iON Intelligence app to “learn” your behavior to maximize battery life.

The Ugly: The case is bulky and if you’re not into the color “graphite,” you’re SOL.

The last thing you need when you’re out on the trail snapping photos of your adventures is a dead iPhone battery. And if you don’t Instagram it, it didn’t happen, right? Though there are tricks to extending battery life, like disabling Location Services and closing all of the apps you’re not using, the iPhone battery will only last for so long. The masterminds behind the OtterBox Defender Series of iPhone cases aim to help us Instagram longer by adding iON Intelligence to an already popular case design.

Right out of the box, it’s obvious the Defender case with iON Intelligence isn’t your typical phone protector. It’s bigger and bulkier than other cases I’ve used, including the OtterBox Commuter case, because the case itself functions as a rechargeable battery. The case includes three separate parts - the bottom half (the battery), the top half, and an outer slip cover to provide further protection.

Installing the case was a piece of cake thanks to detailed installation instructions, and once the case is on, it’s ON. It’s quite a process to dismantle it. As soon as I clicked the case in place, my iPhone made the “I’m charging!” noise it makes when I plug it into the wall or into my computer. Several small LED lights near the base of the case lit up, which tell you how much power is left in the case in 10% increments. To charge the case, connect the case to your computer with the USB cable included in the package.

Case Parts

After installing the case for the first time, the instructions indicated I’d be directed to install the free OtterBox iON Intelligence iPhone app automatically. An install message never came up, but I was able to manually download the app through iTunes. The app is designed to estimate and predict battery power and battery life remaining by monitoring how you use your phone.  Over time, according to OtterBox, the app learns your usage patterns and more accurately transfers power from the case to the phone. Pretty neat, right?

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When the app is turned on (pictured above), the top dial represents power left in the device while the bottom dial represents the charge left in the case. You can turn the case battery off by pushing a button under the LED lights so you’re not running both batteries at the same time, unless you want to.  Swiping screen from left to right can show you different power profiles (% charged vs. estimated time remaining and estimated shutdown), but that’s basically all the app does.

So, does iON Intelligence work? Sort of, but it takes time. During one test phase, I ran the battery on my iPhone 4 down to about 40% and ran the case down to 0%, installed the case and plugged both into my computer using the USB cable. I found the case charges significantly slower than the phone. An hour later, the phone was up to 70% and the case was at 9%. Charging time will vary based on computers, but if I’m in the woods using a solar charger, it would be great if it charged both at the same rate…and faster. My phone charges much faster plugged into a wall, but the case doesn’t come with a wall charger attachment.

In another test phase, I went to bed with my iPhone and the case 45% and 95% charged, respectively, and only the iOn Intelligence app running. When I woke up eight hours later, the iPhone had been charged to 85% and the case was down to 20%. It was neat to see that the case did actually charge the phone’s battery, but given I wasn’t using the phone at all, I expected more of a charge from the case. After a few weeks of testing, it does seem like the iON Intelligence app is learning how I use my phone and the distribution of power from the case is improving.

The bottom line? If you’re looking for solid protection for your phone and extended battery life, the OtterBox Defender Series with iON Intelligence is a decent option. I love that I can keep my phone safe and get extended battery life without buying a separate extra battery. Be sure to give the app time to learn how you use your phone to maximize battery life.

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